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Holiday Book Suggestions for the Discerning PdF Reader [UPDATED]

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, December 22 2010

If you're like me and about to take off for some holiday R&R, you may be hunting around for some good reading to bring with you. Now, these suggestions are not for you if you want something truly non-work-related. But on the chance that you're going to take at least one thoughtful piece of non-fiction with you as you recharge your batteries, here are some helpful suggestions, starting with three musts:

Nick Bilton's "I Live in the Future...And Here's How It Works." Bilton, the New York Times lead technology blogger, is a great guide to the emerging world of hyper-personalized news and gadgetry. I did a review of the book for Wired.com, where I delve into some of the (missing) political implications of Bilton's arguments, but still give him high marks for a very readable and absorbing work.

Beth Kanter and Allison Fine's "The Networked NonProfit: Connecting With Social Media to Drive Change," is another must-read for anyone working in this arena. Are you a fortress or a sponge? How do you deal with free agents? If you're grappling with these questions--or you don't know why you should be grappling with these questions--Beth and Allison (who are both friends) will show you why and how to think about them.

Dan Gillmor's new book Mediactive is a gem. If you are already one of the "people who used to be called the audience" you'll find it chock full of great resources for media participation; if you're someone who is just joining the conversation, you can't find a better guide than Dan. The book comes with, or is part of, a very useful living website that Dan is curating which is full of additional resources, too. Read it if you want to know how to be a fully informed participant in the new media age.

UPDATE: I must have been rushing when I wrote this post, because I forgot to mention two additional books that definitely belong on this list: Deanna Zandt's "Share This!" and Jared Duval's "Next Generation Democracy."

Deanna's Share This! belongs on your shelf because it gets at the power of social media from the perspective of the committed activist. It's also a perfect complement to Beth and Allison's book, which is written more for executive directors of non-profits interested in understanding the new environment for advocacy. If you are looking for one book to give to your budding social activist who wants to get up to speed fast on the new tools for change, this is your pick.

And Jared Duval's "Next Generation Democracy" is on my list because of how he weaves an argument for how "open source politics" is beginning to congeal as a new way of doing things for the millennial generation. Duval offers a well-reported look at how deliberative democracy and civic hacking (like SeeClickFix) are producing better ways of addressing problems of local governance, and while his point of view may be a little too starry-eyed in this age of anti-government rage, I think in the long-run he's right to point our attention at this emerging synthesis of ideas and action.

Other books worth considering: Tim Wu's "The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires," which couldn't be more timely; Lisa Gansky's "The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing," which couldn't be more visionary; Kevin Kelly's "What Technology Wants," which couldn't be more sweeping; Clay Shirky's "The Cognitive Surplus," which couldn't be more inspiring, and Seth Godin's "Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?," which couldn't be more terrifying to your lizard brain. Godin's book in particular is just the sort of thing you might want to read as you plot your New Years resolutions--he'll give you all the reasons why you should start that crazy brilliant project you've been putting off.

And with that, it's time to put off...